Claviere, Italy – Travel Review
by Richard Jones
“Do you fancy a trip to the Milky Way?”
Of course, nine-year-old Isla doesn’t hesitate in agreeing to this latest daddy-daughter adventure. Although, when I explain that we won’t actually be exploring outer space, but instead the Via Lattea winter sports area in the Italian and French Alps, she seems a little bemused. Nevertheless, after a couple of seconds and a leaf through the Crystal Ski brochure, she is more than satisfied with my choice of holiday destination.
Claviere is one of the world’s oldest winter resorts. There has been a ski school there for over 100-years. However, unlike long established Swiss towns like St Moritz and Davos, and French village Montgenevre a few miles away over the border, Claviere has hardly grown at all. In fact, speaking to the village’s mayor during our trip, he seems more that satisfied with what they already have. He sees no real reason to build up this well-kept secret, at least for the foreseeable future.
Nestling in the Alps, the charmingly small resort is full of character, with a blend of Italian and French influence. Meanwhile, the expanse of snowy terrain, well-groomed runs and breathtaking panoramas throughout the Monti della Luna and the Milky Way makes Claviere an ideal winter destination.
“Plenty of room to burn off energy”
The nearest airport to Claviere is Turin and it was from there that Isla and I made our way through the Alps on a sunny Sunday morning. Although the area attracts all nationalities, Claviere is particularly popular with the UK’s snow lovers. Seventy per cent of the winter tourists are Brits and there are plenty of French and Italian weekenders. And it’s this mixture of nationalities that gives the town it’s unique cosmopolitan character. Evenings are complete with cosy après ski drinks and fantastic cuisine. Families appreciate the peaceful, unhurried atmosphere and first-class childcare facilities.
Our base for the four-night stay is the hotel Grand Claviere. A stay here includes a standard buffet-style breakfast, packed lunch and evening meal. On a night, the salad bar means we can pile up as much healthy food as we want. It’s a dining option that pleases my wife Rachel back home. She fears that Isla will be filling up on junk during her weekend away with dad! The all-inclusive wine and beer (after 4:30pm) is also a massive bonus for me. While the bar is a nice place to head for a pre-meal drink and chinwag about the day’s exploits.
Crystal’s renowned children’s programmes, the Whizz Kids Club and Pepi Penguin creche are also housed in the Grande Claviere. Although Isla is a bit old for the creche, the other families we speak to remark that the facilities are great. The kids get plenty of room to burn off energy, and lots of toys and books to entertain them.
“Staff are energetic and helpful”
Anyone who has been skiing as a family will tell you that these holidays require a lot more organisation than winter breaks without kids. Every morning you’re in a rush to get both yourself and the kids ready. But having all the facilities in your hotel is a huge advantage. Throughout our stay, the staff were energetic, helpful, and always on hand to make sure Isla and I got the most out of our stay.
Once we settle into the hotel, on the Monday morning, we spend an hour after breakfast on the gentle slopes outside the hotel. The aim is to try and get Isla’s skiing legs back. Then we head down to join the rest of the Whizz Kids for their three-hour ski lessons at the Claviere Ski School. Although a little apprehensive at first, and unsure which group to join, Isla settles in nicely and makes friends with another little girl, Georgina, who is in her class.
Isla has a great time learning to ski. She stays almost exclusively in Claviere but makes it up to the mid station and snowplowed her way down a red. She isn’t afraid of the odd fall and whenever I pass, or slow down to watch her on the slopes she has a big smile on her face, which is great to see.
“Opportunities to wander off-piste”
During the mornings, when the kids are in ski school, us parents have three hours or so to explore the rest of the ski area. The French resort of Montgenevre is just one chair lift away. Those feeling more adventurous can ski further west to the bigger Italian resorts of Sansicario, Sestriere and Sauze d’Oulx in the Milky Way. I have the ‘Two Country Pass’ which allows me access to Claviere and Montgenevre, and one day in the rest of Via Lattea.
Slope-wise, everything is covered. There are motorway wide blues, some nice cruising reds, steep icy blacks and treelined cat tracks. Plus, for the adrenaline junkies, there are plenty of opportunities to wander off-piste into powder for a few hundred yards before rejoining the slopes.
After Isla’s lessons in the morning, we tuck into our lunch in the sunshine outside the bar at the bottom of the slopes. We then embark on an afternoon’s skiing together. Then, on the last day, we decide to leave Italy behind and head over the border to France.
Of course, Isla’s original idea of travelling into space never becomes a reality on her weekend away with her dad. But she does make it to both Italy AND France, which is an achievement of sorts. And anyway, our short stay in Claviere was certainly out of this world.
Crystal Ski Holidays (crystalski.co.uk; 020 8939 0726) offers a week’s half board at the three-star Hotel Grande Claviere from £449 per person (family of three from £1347; based on child staying in same room) including flights from Manchester to Turin and transfers (price given is for departure on 19 March 2017). Direct flights available from all major UK airports.